Effects of exercise types on white matter microstructure in late midlife adults: Preliminary results from a diffusion tensor imaging study

Feng Tzu Chen, Hideaki Soya, Michael A. Yassa, Ruei Hong Li, Chien Heng Chu, Ai Guo Chen*, Chiao Ling Hung*, Yu Kai Chang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Higher aerobic fitness during late midlife is associated with higher white matter (WM) microstructure. Compared with individuals engaged in irregular exercise, those who engage in regular aerobic exercise show higher fractional anisotropy (FA), a diffusion tenor imaging (DTI) measure that provides an index of WM microstructural integrity. However, whether other types of exercise, such as Tai Chi, can also facilitate WM changes in adults during late midlife remains unknown. The present study compares two types of exercise, Tai Chi and walking, with a sedentary control group, in order to examine the effects of exercise on WM microstructure and determine the regional specificity of WM differences. Thirty-six healthy adults between the ages of 55 and 65 years participated in the study. Based on the participants’ exercise habits, they were allocated into three groups: Tai Chi, walking, or sedentary control. All participants were required to complete physical fitness measurements and completed magnetic reasoning imaging (MRI) scans. Our results revealed that the Tai Chi group exhibited a higher FA value in the left cerebral peduncle, compared to the sedentary control group. We also observed that both the Tai Chi and walking groups exhibited higher FA values in the right uncinate fasciculus and the left external capsule, in comparison to the sedentary control group. Increased FA values in these regions was positively correlated with higher levels of physical fitness measurements (i.e., peak oxygen uptake [VO2peak], muscular endurance/number of push-up, agility, power). These findings collectively suggest that regular exercise is associated with improved WM microstructural integrity, regardless of the exercise type, which could guide the development and application of future prevention and intervention strategies designed to address age-related cognitive impairments during late midlife.

Original languageEnglish
Article number943992
JournalFrontiers in Aging Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Nov 18


  • Tai Chi
  • Taijiquan
  • cognitive function
  • exercise type
  • fractional anisotropy
  • white microstructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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